Quarterback is by far the most important position on a football field, and for that reason Teddy Bridgewater of the Minnesota Vikings is almost guaranteed an extension when his rookie deal is up. He has not put up many performances that wowed anyone watching the game, but he wins games, won a division title and hosted a home playoff game in just his second year.
Last season he completed 292 of his 447 passes (65.3 percent), throwing for 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions in the regular season. He was the first Vikings quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards since Brett Favre did in 2009 and he is becoming one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL.
The big thing for him is that people want to see him attack down the field more. Almost all of his passes are short and intermediate throws that the receivers then take and add on yards after the catch. Both fans and his coaching staff want to see him air the ball out, take more chances during games and learn to trust his receivers.
All the big-name quarterbacks aren’t afraid to let the ball fly 30 or 40 yards down the field and let their receivers go up and get it over a defensive back. Bridgewater has struggled pulling the trigger on those throws during his first two seasons, but it sounds like he is going to be taking more shots downfield in this coming season.
Bridgewater’s contract expires following the 2017 season, but the Vikings have the ability to utilize his fifth-year option, which means he still has two or three years to prove to the organization that he deserves to be paid like a top-tier quarterback.
So what type of contract could Bridgewater expect to see come his way in the next few years? The Vikings organization has shown that it likes to get deals done early with their most valued young stars, and a talented quarterback would be listed in that group.
Last season, Pro Football Focus gave Bridgewater a grade of 77.4, which made him the No. 13 quarterback in the NFL. If you go off that grade alone, the players around him with similar grades are Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (80.8) and San Diego’s Philip Rivers (77.0).
But those two players are often asked to do a whole lot more for their team than Bridgewater is. Last year, Rodgers - who is on a five-year, $110 million deal - went 347 for 572 (60.7 percent) throwing the ball, for a total of 3,821 yards, 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Rivers - who is on a four-year, $83.25 million deal - went 437 for 661 (66.1 percent) throwing the ball, for a total of 4,792 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
It should also be mentioned that both Rodgers and Rivers played all of last season without their No. 1 receivers, which made their performances more impressive.
If you were to go off numbers alone, Bridgewater would be more similar to Kansas City’s Alex Smith or Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor. He also had very similar numbers to Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, but Dalton also missed the final three seasons of the regular season.
Last season, Smith received a grade of 73.1 from PFF after completing 65.3 percent of his passes for 3,486 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He is currently on a four-year, $68 million deal.
Taylor, on the other hand, just got his first chance to be a full-time starter last season and he was given a grade of 81.8 by PFF, making him the No. 9 quarterback in the NFL. He completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions last season and appears to be in a good spot to do it again this season. Taylor signed a three-year, $3.35 million deal last offseason.
Bridgewater’s new deal, whenever he gets it will be higher than the deal Taylor is currently on, especially since his current deal is four years, $6,849,502. The biggest question is how much the coaching staff and front office feel comfortable investing in him.
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His 14 passing touchdowns were tied for 26th in the NFL last season, and that is an area he is going to need to improve next season if he hopes to get a lucrative deal. He will also need to throw for more yards and prove that he is able to put the team on his back, lead them down the field and score in a make-or-break situation.
If he can do all that, he will be well-compensated in the coming years, but if he continues to play the way he has the past two seasons, his contract will be more a middle-of-the-road deal.